United States of America – Stuck in Customs

32 Nonexistent People at Burning Man

Well, I’ve been going a little crazy with this unusual form of “photography” where I sit behind a computer without a lens rather than a computer with a lens. I’ve always thought about my high-end cameras as computers that just happen to have a lens attached. Most of the smarts are inside the camera, and most of the “visions” of the photo come from my mind. The only shortcoming to that is I actually have to get my body to a location in a time and place to make it happen. Please note I still love regular photography, and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. But I do quite like the idea of just visualizing very interesting images and communicating with an artificial intelligence to describe the kind of shot I’d like to see.

I went through a similar thought process when I started drone photography. I was basically holding a computer in my hands with a screen, and I would tell the drone where to go. The lens did not have to be a few inches from my head. That opened up a 180 degree hemisphere of 2-4km around me where I could take almost any photo I wanted. Now, with AI, it’s kind of the next-level, where the lens is actually inside the computer.

I’m a very visual person (in my head too), so I spent a long time doing a “dance” with an AI so that we could understand one another better. There have been many failures, but here are some of the successes. I recently did two other posts:

31 Burning Man art installations at Burning Man that do not exist
27 Tribes From Remote Villages In Papua New Guinea That No One Has Ever Seen

BTW, I started up a new AI Instagram @Trairatcliff account so I could keep my main Instagram more with traditional photography. Be one of the first to join! And tell your friends, but only the cool ones… not the energy vampire friends you are trying to get rid of. 🙂



After those initial mini-projects, mentioned in the post above, I am finally figuring out how to get realistic-looking people at Burning Man wearing rather amazing costumes.

I’m using Midjourney version 4 for these, although I play with all the AI tools. It’s a command-line interface via Discord to communicate with the AI. Here is a sample query for one of the photos. If you haven’t used Discord, this will look confusing. Even if you are an expert at Discord (like me!), well, it still takes a while to get the hang of it. I should make a tutorial or something. Anyway, here is the sample query:

And here are 32 of my favorite creations so far. Note that some of the costumes are a bit over the top, but I kinda like that. I did photos in all sorts of different weather situations, day, night, males, females, many moods and temperatures. It was great fun to experiment with. Enjoy!

































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31 Burning Man Photos With the Latest AI

Before I get started, a quick note that I’ve created a new Instagram account for my AI adventure. You can check it out over here.



My ever-evolving theory on artists using AI groweth! I’ll make a bigger article soon… but you can read my one from only 7 days ago AND you can look at the differences between those images and these images. It’s amazing how much progress can be made in just a week! The article focuses on how artists can team up with an AI to make some pretty amazing stuff.

Here are a few snippets from the previous article:

I have an interesting theory on AI in this arena – I believe a very interesting future for all artists is to “team up” with AIs to form an UberArtist.

Chess Grandmasters who routinely get destroyed by AIs sometimes team up with an AI in competitions against other teams. Anyway, with photography and pretty much all other forms of art (and soon video), it’s clear to me that AI will be able to make some extremely interesting creations, often surpassing what the most creative humans can produce. And it’s only going to get better. So, rather than “fight” the system, it only makes sense to join forces as artists curate and coax their AI into creating things they think are interesting.

After you do a little mind-flip on the benefits of AI, it’s like having a very creative assistant around you all the time, making wild suggestions that you may never think of. It’s like having a coach in a way… or the way Tiger Woods has a caddy to make suggestions… Many great people out there have coaches and listen to ideas and thoughts that may never have occurred to them.

I use about five different AI tools, and my new favorite is Midjourney Version 4. It doesn’t have much of a user interface, and you use Discord and command-line language with switches to create the images. I’m a Computer Science nerd, so I’m all into this stuff, but it may be a bit esoteric to others. Basically, you tell the AI what you want. I’ll give you a sample prompt I used for one of the images below:

“A huge semi-buried Burning Man sculpture in an inhospitable white desert, night time, dystopian, awe-inspiring, Trey Ratcliff style, lonely feeling, hyper-realistic, ultra-detailed, ultra-realistic, UHD, insanely beautiful, 32k, unreal engine, high octane, perfect composition, cinematic lighting, lonely feeling, minimalist, humbling scene, Joseph Campbell quest, a feeling of Rumi’s the cave you fear holds the treasure you seek –v 4 –q 2 –uplight –ar 1:1”

You may notice that I used the words “Trey Ratcliff Style” in the command line. This was an unexpected joy! The AI actually has gone out and seen all my Burning Man photos (and other photos – see my Full Portfolio) that I’ve been uploading to the internet for the last 15+ years. This makes the final render look quite similar to the sort of photo I might actually take. So, it turns out I’ve been accidentally training the AI for the last 15 years! Enjoy the photos, and I’ll have another series of articles and sample images in future posts… in the meantime, feel free to follow me on Instagram or Twitter.

Also, at the bottom after all the Burning Man works, I added some different sorts of creations I have made with this AI. I’ll post another article soon that explores all of these innovative ways to use AI to make visually interesting creations. I know I get quite a bit of negative feedback from photographers (or other visual artists) on this stuff because it is not hand-crafted, but that’s okay. I already got through over a decade of HDR hate and stuff. 🙂































Other Creations with the AI

Below is a sampling of other fun creations I’ve created. I’ll post a longer article later that really does an analysis of what is going on here and some fun implications for the art world.

I’ll give you the prompts here for the first couple… and you can have fun trying to guess the next ones. I’m not keeping secrets, I’m just toooo lazy now to copy and paste all the prompts.

Below:

“a stunning interpretation of a leopard Human girl hybrid, highly detailed and intricate, hypermaximalist, blonde, big blue intense eyes, mouth slightly open, ornate, luxury, elite, welcoming, loving, matte painting, cinematic, cgsociety, James jean, Brian froud, ross tran, fantasy forest background -v 4 –q 2 –uplight”

Below:

“insanely detailed photorealistic Japanese treehouse in a tall cherry blossom tree, hybrid, highly detailed and intricate, mysterious foggy night, closeup of treehouse, glowing treehouse, many cherry blossoms around treehouse, treehouse in focus, dark green forest in background out of focus, tiny glowing fairies in the background, Miyazaki style, 4k, octane render, Rembrandt lighting -v 4 –q 2 –uplight”

Below (yes the whole thing is created by AI – quite meta, hey? I borrowed this idea!):

“a bookish redditor shows off her painting in a niche subreddit.”











More soon!

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The Milky Way over the Burning Bush

Daily Photo – The Milky Way over the Burning Bush

I took this photo in Death Valley one evening. The bush is red and mysterious because of a bit or light-painting with my headlamp. My neck got a bit tired from multiple tries. That glow around it? I don’t really know… maybe a bit of the dust from the desert caught the red light. Either way, I like how everything looks all funky and Zen. Even in the middle of the night, it was still over 95 degrees with a hot wind blasting into my camera and face.

Death Valley, California

The Milky Way over the Burning Bush

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2012-08-25 03:30:14
  • CameraNIKON D800
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time30
  • Aperture2.8
  • ISO1600
  • Focal Length14.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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More Snow from White Sands?

Daily Photo – More Snow From White Sands?

This one is not Antarctica! This one is in White Sands National Park and it’s one of my favorite photos I took that day. This was after the sun had set the sky was changing color from the west to the east… I took this one as I was walking back to the car with my friends… and the more I look at it, the more I like it! 🙂

White Sands National Park, New Mexico

More Snow From White Sands?

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2015-08-19 22:05:47
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time0.6
  • Aperture6.3
  • ISO500
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+1.3

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Gaia Again

Daily Photo – Gaia Again

Here is Marco Cochrane’s amazing “Gaia” – I wonder where it is now! I know some famous artists like Michael end up selling their pieces to private collectors or to cities to put on display…

Gaia Again

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2022-09-03 10:38:04
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/2000
  • Aperture4.5
  • ISO64
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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34 Crazy Photos From Burning Man That Don’t Exist – AKA How Artists Can Embrace AI

I have a NEW post with 31 Much Improved photos using a new AI. You won’t believe the difference!

I have an interesting theory on AI – I believe a very interesting future for all artists is to “team up” with AIs to form an UberArtist.

Chess Grandmasters who routinely get destroyed by AIs sometimes team up with an AI in competitions against other teams. Anyway, with photography and pretty much all other forms of art (and soon video), it’s clear to me that AI will be able to make some extremely interesting creations, often surpassing what the most creative humans can produce. And it’s only going to get better. So, rather than “fight” the system, it only makes sense to join forces as artists curate and coax their AI into creating things they think are interesting.

I’ve been deep into the AI world for about the last year trying all sorts of things. Before I became a full-time artist, I was all IT with my nerdy degree in Computer Science and Math, so I’m deep into all the facets of AI. It gets pretty esoteric, but I’m leaning more toward the art side, naturally.

I decided to take 34 of my favorite Burning Man photos of art, vehicles, and structures and create something that doesn’t actually exist. You can see the source of all my photos there in my portfolio from the last 11 years in a row at the burn. I hope you also have fun finding some of the originals in my Burning Man portfolio.

Naturally, these took a very long time to capture and create. It’s challenging to get the composition I want along with the light, background, and all the other factors that make for an interesting photo. And I love how the AI “respected” (if I can use that word) my original color treatment and composition to create something entirely new that pays homage to the original.

After you do a little mind-flip on the benefits of AI, it’s like having a very creative assistant around you all the time, making wild suggestions that you may never think of. It’s like having a coach in a way… or the way Tiger Woods has a caddy to make suggestions… Many great people out there have coaches and listen to ideas and thoughts that may never have occurred to them.

In many cases, to be honest, the AI made things that are even more interesting! There are still little problems if you zoom in close, but these niggling things will only get better over time. It’s quite bad still at creating new tiny humans in the image, but when zoomed out, the surrealistic effect still works. I think it especially works on my style which is already pretty surrealistic to begin with.


































Wild, eh?!
Follow me on Insta or Twitter.

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In the Dust

Daily Photo – In the Dust

It was a tough year at Burning Man for many people, and not just including the weather. There’s a good article by Buck Down that kind of breaks it down on Medium entitled, “What the Fuck Just Happened at Burning Man?”
Here is another of Michael Benisty’s in the middle of the beautiful storm.

In the Dust

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2022-09-05 12:27:53
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/800
  • Aperture5
  • ISO50
  • Focal Length105.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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Gaia

Daily Photo – Gaia

Marco Cochrane’s “Gaia” on another 100+ degree day… He’s one of my fave artists out there for sure.

Gaia

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2022-09-03 09:51:16
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/2500
  • Aperture6.3
  • ISO125
  • Focal Length32.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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Robot Heart at Sunset

Daily Photo – Robot Heart at Sunset

Robot Heart at sunset as I was rolling around taking photos. I spent most of the sunsets out there by myself, zipping from art piece to art piece and getting as many photos as I could. It’s easy to get distracted out there by things like Robot Heart though!

Robot Heart at Sunset

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2022-09-02 13:37:25
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/200
  • Aperture7.1
  • ISO160
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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Monolink – Live

This year at the Mayan Warrior I got to see my fave Monolink play… now the whole set is up… maybe you’ll like it too – Check it out on YouTube:

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